Much of Carnegie Hill is about secrets and private lives; one of the most satisfying parts of its composition is in the author’s clear desire to keep elements of these lives private enough that we are seduced into endearing ourselves to the characters both despite and because of their incomplete personas ... What is most striking about Carnegie Hill, in the generous and oft-comedic voice Vatner brings to the work, is the way marriage becomes not just an institution that wears tedious as time goes on, but a place unto itself that only begins behind the doors and elevators of an old building ... He succeeds in not only rendering these characters’ intimate flaws, but also giving them, and their secrets, a half-life that has immense potential to endear them to the reader ... as much a New York novel as Wolfe or Salinger or Helprin have given us, conveying not just the landscape of Manhattan and its domestic innards, but of its inhabitants and their many imperfections.
Debut author Vatner brings to light how the other half lives, and, contrary to popular belief, how money does not buy happiness but can certainly give that impression. He highlights marriages in varying states of disarray owing to depression, health issues leading to alienation, and dishonesty. The story is anything but light, as issues of race, class, sexual preference, secrecy, and prejudice are attacked head on ... An excellent read for those seeking an exploration of marriage in all of its various stages.
[A] charming, comically observant debut ... Vatner jumps from one point of view to another, not necessarily integrating all the separate stories into a flowing narrative. Rather, it’s his consistently wry wit and obvious affection for his deluded, struggling characters that are this novel’s propelling forces, and which will win readers over with delight.
Vatner’s keen eye for domestic dissatisfaction will remind readers of Laurie Colwin. He populates the Chelmsford Arms with a delightful cast of characters, but best of all is Pepper herself, a charming, contemporary update of an Edith Wharton character. This debut will entertain and satisfy readers.